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A New York state lawmaker who sought to replace a retiring member of Congress refused to concede defeat Thursday following Tuesday’s Democratic primary, claiming the election was plagued by “intentional black voter suppression.”
State Assemblyman Michael Blake, an African-American candidate, finished in second place in the 15th Congressional District contest’s in-person ballot count, the New York Daily News reported.
The top finisher was New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, who is also African-American.
The retiring congressman is U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, a native of Puerto Rico, who has represented the Bronx-based 15th district since 2013.
Blake claimed a polling site in the predominantly black Concourse Village neighborhood was relocated without explanation, “forcing elderly voters to walk 11 blocks away, putting their health at risk,” according to the Daily News.
New York Assemblyman Michael Blake speaks in New York City, Jan. 16, 2019. (Associated Press)
He also claimed another polling site “in the heart of a Black neighborhood” didn’t open on time, prompting some potential voters to give up.
Blake also claimed that a high number of affidavit ballots at a third location – filed by voters whose registration was in dispute – might not have been counted.
“Intentional black voter suppression and undemocratic processes clearly don’t just happen in the South but also in the South Bronx,” Blake wrote. “These incidents, among others, are too pervasive to be a coincidence. They are a concerted effort to suppress the Black vote.”
Torres has held off from claiming victory, saying he wants all mail-in ballots to be counted – a process that could take weeks, the Daily News reported.
“We reiterate what Ritchie said on Election Night: Every vote must be counted. We’re confident that Ritchie will emerge from the complete vote as the decisive winner,” Torres’ campaign manager Nanette Alvarado told the newspaper.
One Democratic source told the Daily News that the accusations seemed odd coming from Blake, a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
“This is a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee … accusing the Bronx Democratic Party of rigging an election for a candidate they didn’t even endorse?” the source said.
The New York City Board of Elections did not respond to a Daily News request for comment.